Impact of Traumatically Brain-Injured Donors on Outcomes After Heart Transplantation

Alejandro Suarez-Pierre, Todd C. Crawford, Xun Zhou, Cecillia Lui, Charles D. Fraser, Kent Stevens, Kavita Sharma, Robert S. Higgins, Glenn J. Whitman, Ahmet Kilic, Chun W. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Heart transplant recipients of traumatically brain-injured (TBI) donors have been reported to have inferior survival and increased rates of cardiac allograft vasculopathy in single-center studies. This study sought to examine the impact of TBI donors on outcomes after heart transplantation across all transplantation centers. Methods: We identified all adult heart transplants performed during 2007-2016 in the OPTN database. Recipients were dichotomized based on donor cause of death (TBI versus non-TBI), propensity-scored across 22 variables with known associations with mortality, and matched 1:1 without replacement. The primary endpoint was all-cause mortality. Secondary endpoints were conditional survival and rates of cardiac allograft vasculopathy. Results: In total, 20,244 patients underwent heart transplantation. TBI was the primary cause of death in 53.4% of donors (10,816/20,244), and among TBI donors, blunt injury (59.6%; 6443/10,816) and gunshot wound (35%; 3781/10,816) were the most common mechanisms of injury. Propensity matching generated 6919 pairs (all absolute mean differences < 0.07). Risk-adjusted survival was similar between recipients of TBI donors and non-TBI donors at 5 y (78.1% versus 77.5%, log-rank P = 0.34). Risk-adjusted survival conditional on 1-y survival was also similar at 5 y (86.2% versus 86.1%, log-rank P = 0.74). The 5-y risk-adjusted rates of cardiac allograft vasculopathy did not differ either (30.6% versus 30.4%; log-rank P = 0.78). Conclusions: In the largest analysis of TBI donors in heart transplantation, we found similar survival and rates of cardiac allograft vasculopathy to those who received hearts from non-TBI donors out to 5 y. These findings should allay concerns over continued transplantation with this unique donor population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-47
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Cardiac allograft vasculopathy
  • Heart transplantation
  • Organ allocation
  • Organ donation
  • Propensity matching
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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